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Northern Ireland’s Whites celebrates 25 years with Toymaster buying group

It was 63 years ago that Whites first opened its doors to residents of the Northern Irish town of Omagh, with its offering of hardware supplies and gifts.

This week the store’s current owner of the family-run business, Ivor White was handed a plaque in recognition of 25 years’ membership with the industry buying group Toymaster.

Over the course of that time, White – whose father opened the store back in 1956 – has seen it all come and go, having witnessed the toy industry move through each stage of evolution over the last quarter of a century.

But while the high street around him has changed enormously from when he first began working at the shop at the age of 12, the now 56 year old store manager explains that “being part of a community of toy shop owners” has helped keep the business running.

“You know that you are all in it together when you are with a group like Toymaster,” explains White. “It’s like being part of a community. We often attend the Toymaster meet ups and the May show is very important to us. It’s where we all get together and help each other out, talk over our businesses – what is working, what is not…”

25 years in toys, and 44 years in retail, White has weathered all manner of climates, and while he has seen shops and toy retailers come and go around, Whites Toymaster has remained a destination store for the Omagh locals.

“Our secret is simply just trying to keep our finger on the pulse,” adds White. “We bring in the trends that pull in the consumers, while keeping our eye on those margins.

“The current trends we are seeing are pretty much reflective of what’s hot at the moment. We have slime trends, pocket money trends in LOL Surprise, while Sylvanian Families has been very popular for us.”

For the future, Whites is looking at ramping up the level of in-store theatre it offers. It’s a move that’s in line with the current lean towards delivering experiential shopping for today’s consumers.

“We will be running face painting and demos and all manner of things that keep kids and families engaged and in the shop,” says White. “It’s the only way we can compete with the big chains and big name stores, because we can’t compete on their prices.”

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